Condos at ex-Penthouse


Alta. developer eyes housing at 107-year-old former furniture store

Winnipeg Free Press, March 16, 2010
By: Bartley Kives


The former home of Penthouse Furniture may soon house actual penthouses, as an Alberta developer plans to convert the warehouse at Princess Street and Bannatyne Avenue into a residential building.

Canmore-based Taurean Global Properties has purchased the 107-year-old heritage structure originally known as the Campbell Brothers & Wilson Warehouse and plans to renovate the interior to house at least 60 condominium units.

The six-storey warehouse is best known to Winnipeggers as the home of Penthouse Furniture, which occupied the structure in one incarnation or another from 1965 until December 2008, when its doors were padlocked after the bankruptcy of parent company North End Furniture Co., or NEFCO.
Taurean Global purchased the building in 2009 from the Adelman family, NEFCO’s former owners, and assumed possession Nov. 1, said Taurean president and CEO Doug Thiessen, a former Winnipegger.

Taurean spent $2 million on the purchase and plans to invest another $8.5 million on a conversion that will involve the removal of three freight elevators, construction of two new modern elevators and the creation of condo units that will range in size from 825 to 1,000 square feet.

Thiessen said he plans to sell the units for $165,000 to $275,000 and rent out any units that do not sell immediately.

“I’m not looking to build great big things for rich people,” he said, promising to offer a lease-to-own option — with 100 per cent financing — to prospective tenants. “If they don’t sell, there’s no problem finding people interested in renting in Winnipeg.”

The city’s residential vacancy rate sits at just above one per cent.

Thiessen said he would have preferred to create rental units only, but could not make the numbers work, even with the help of the city’s multi-family and mixed-use property-tax credits and a matching education-tax credit program the province has promised to introduce soon.

Thiessen also said he would prefer to build 71 residential units with no commercial space on the main floor, given the glut of empty storefronts in the Exchange District. But his application will initially involve 60 units and main-floor commercial space.

If the city approves Taurean’s permits and variance requests, construction could begin this year, Thiessen said.

No opposition is expected at city hall, where council is unanimous in its support of more downtown residential development.

“It’s great to see affordable housing being developed in the Exchange District, especially when it’s an adaptive reuse of such a great building,” said St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel, council’s downtown development chairman.

Ross McGowan, president and CEO of downtown development agency CentreVenture, said he’s confident the project will be eligible for both the city and provincial tax-credit programs. Without the tax credits, the gap between the cost of the redevelopment and the revenue generated by the new units would be too great for this and several other pending residential redevelopments.

“This adds to the density of the area. The greater the density, the greater the success,” McGowan said.
Built in 1903, the Campbell Brothers & Wilson Warehouse originally stored imported goods bound for grocery stores, says a city heritage report. Some of these products were processed, blended, and packaged on the second floor.

It was granted Grade 2 heritage status in 1982, partly because of its combination of Romanesque and Chicago-skyscraper design.